Dante Alighieri

Il Sommo Poeta

Fresco of Dante between Hell, Purgatory, Florence and Heaven; captioned below

Dante holding a copy of the Divine Comedy between the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory, and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above, in Michelino's fresco. (image source: wikimedia)

Dante Alighieri (c. 1265 – 1321), often known as Dante, was an Italian poet. Written over ~12 years and completed a year before his death in 1320, his Divine Comedy is widely considered the most important poem of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language. Dante was instrumental in establishing the literature of Italy, and his depictions of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven provided inspiration for the larger body of Western art.

Dante is known for establishing the use of the vernacular in literature at a time when most poetry was written in Latin, making it accessible only to the most educated readers. His De vulgari eloquentia (On Eloquence in the Vernacular) was one of the first scholarly defenses of the vernacular. His use of the Tuscan dialect for works such as The New Life and Divine Comedy helped establish the modern-day standardized Italian language, and set a precedent that Petrarch and Boccaccio would follow. In addition, the first use of the interlocking three-line rhyme scheme, the terza rima, is attributed to him.

Dante is described as the "father" of the Italian language, and in Italy he is often referred to as il Sommo Poeta ("the Supreme Poet"). Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio are also called the tre corone ("three crowns") of Italian literature. He is cited as an influence on Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton and Alfred Tennyson, among many others.

See the source of the above on Wikipedia.